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Feb. 2nd, 2011


Hourly Comics continued

And here are the rest of my Hourly Comics! I actually kind of had a busy day, so it was good for this exercise. Of late most of my days have been slogging away on the laptop, but since I made a deadline yesterday morning, I decided to venture outdoors and stuff...

It was senior citizens day at the Sears Outlet, so the place was overrun with chatty little old ladies.

And then I made a crack about being in The Matrix and rolled out the door in a hail of gunfire and rotating 3D cameras.

Yes I seriously have a favourite graveyard. You'll see it a lot in Friends with Boys.

I don't know if it was the walk, but wow, I was useless in that class.

I'm kind of a negative head talker sometimes. It's hard getting your brain to shut up.

Well, looks like we've got another mystery, gang!

oh my god I love Fullmetal Alchemist so much... O_O
I noticed I had kind of a wibbly eyes day. Weird. I'm not usually like that. I'll chalk it up to being tired and I usually get a little spazzy after a deadline.

Anyway, that was fun! I've been enjoying other people's hourly comics as well. Hopefully I'll get to do this another time.

Feb. 1st, 2011


Hourly Comics

Apparently today is Hourly Comic Day, and since I made a deadline this morning and have nothing else to do, here are a couple of my hours in comic form:

I am especially glad I work at home during winter.

There's a missing half hour in there somewhere... anyway, I have more, but I have to head out the door now. Maybe I'll post the rest of 'em later.

Jan. 30th, 2011


How I Became a Comic Book Consumer

I've been wanting to write this blog post for a while, about how I became someone who reads and buys comics. I see a lot of analysis out there about the habits of the comic buying public, how the comic book industry can get more people to buy comics, and especially how they can get those who are readers (consumers of novels/non-fiction, what my boyfriend helpfully calls "Word Books") to cross over into reading and buying comics. Maybe my experience can be a little bit helpful, because although I now work in comics, I'm not a native comic book reader. I came to them late in life, and only in the past five years have become an enthusiastic consumer of comics. And there are pictures of my bookshelves! I love my books.

In the beginning, I was someone who was always very attracted to comics as a medium. I did read comics as a kid, but they were extremely limited: the only comics I had access to were the Tintin and Asterix series (both widely available at my local library) and Bible comics. My most favourite book when I was a kid was a comic book version of the Bible, which detailed the many adventures of White Jesus and his disciples. I read that thing until it fell apart.

Although I had brothers, and one of those brothers read Spider-Man, I didn't particularly like Spider-Man. It was a scary book, with lots of screaming and violence. I remember being particularly disturbed by pictures of a demonic looking Harry Osborne screeching at Spider-Man for something, I dunno. Spider-Man was scary.

I was a very committed reader (still am). Reading was my entertainment, as I grew up without a TV or any video game console. There were many books out there that I liked (Lloyd Alexander and Diana Wynne Jones were two particular favourites) and that seemed to be written with me in mind: stories about girls going on adventures, girls being awesome, science fiction, fantasy... there was a lot of diversity in books, something I didn't see in comics when I was growing up. I only saw superheroes, and I didn't particularly like the way the girl superheroes were drawn.

But I really wanted to read comics. Occasionally when I was a teenager I would sneak down to a local comic book shop, a dark forbidding place so unfriendly to a teen girl that I would walk past the doorway five times to get my courage up before entering. I bought some X-Men comics, because I liked the cartoon on TV.

In college I discovered a tattered copy of volume 3 of Bone at a local Chapters, and read the crap out of it. I had no real idea what was going on in the book, but I loved the artwork and female characters, and the idea of a comic with one solid vision propelling it forward. It was very different from the scattered X-Men storylines I'd assumed were a staple of comic books.

But even though I read the crap out of Bone, bought everything associated with Bone and loved it deeply, I was frozen in place with that one comic book, reading and re-reading it and never venturing beyond to read other comics. I completely missed the manga boom of the early 2000s, having no friends who were into manga, and being intimidated by the shelves of it at the big box bookstores. So I read Bone, and occasionally picked up books by Andi Watson, whose Skeleton Key series clicked with me (magicial girls and their friendships, what's not to like).

Things changed when I moved to Halifax, and this is where I became a comic consumer. Here's how it happened.

1) The library. Libraries had gotten into stocking graphic novels (and trades and floppies) years ago, and while I had read a few at my local library back when I lived in Ontario, I hadn't yet lived in a city with a good library system, and especially one that was very concerned with graphic novels, and invested in them. The Halifax libraries had thousands of graphic novels and manga, allowing me, a timid consumer, to try before I bought. I read their collection by the bucket-full, dragging home stack after stack of graphic novels. I tried thousands of pages of manga, something which became very important, because frankly, the entry point to manga is expensive. It's hard to judge a manga by a single volume, and I wasn't prepared to fork over $50+ for multiple volumes of something I hadn't read.

This has always been a big issue for me: I'm a very conservative consumer. I'm reluctant to buy unless I know a work is to my liking, and the library allows me to try new things. I'm very committed to creators though; if there is a creator I like, I tend to buy everything by them.

2) A good local comics store. I cannot stress how important it was for me to find, in Halifax, a comic book store I was comfortable in, that I enjoyed going to, and that did a lot of outreach, putting comics in front of me even as I was a reluctant consumer. Bravo, Lovely Local Comic Shop, Strange Adventures. I feel like this is an issue that all of the comic industry knows is an important one, but it bears repeating: an easily accessible, female friendly comic book store with a knowledgable staff is so, so important for reaching out to those who are interested in comics, but unsure of their particular entry point into the medium. A good local comic store also builds shopper loyalty. I like bargins. I liked Amazon's deep discounts, but since moving to Halifax and becoming so attached to Strange Adventures, I shop only there, no matter what another store is offering.

When I moved to Halifax in 2005, I brought with me one small box of graphic novels. It contained the Bone trades, a few books by Andi Watson and the occasion other book (I enjoyed Powers for a time). I moved apartments in August, and had over 15 boxes of graphic novels. In the past five years, I have bought literally hundreds of books.

3) Manga. I read about 10-15 graphic novels a month. Probably two thirds of that is manga. I came to manga very late, only really getting into it in 2008, when an employee at Strange Adventures recommended Naoki Urasawa's Monster to me. I picked up the first six volumes from the library and was hooked, realizing that I had been unfairly dismissing manga (yes, I was one of those "it looks the same and it looks dumb" idiots for a while) and there was manga out there for me, if I wanted to read it.

Funny how getting into manga required the co-ordinated effort of both Strange Adventures (the recommendation) and the library (providing the initial hook). Almost as though they were working together to trap me in their web of reading! Later I would buy everything Naoki Urasawa published.

Since 2008 I would estimate about two thirds of my reading and buying material has been manga, because unfortunately the comic book industry, even though it has made great strides, has not caught up with Japan in providing the depth of diversity required to get someone like me reading. There is still a lot of amazing stuff by North American creators: I greedily consume BPRD, the works of Raina Telgemeier, Jaime Hernandez, Hope Larson, much of what First Second publishes, and Aaron Alexovich, but there is simply not as much published by North American creators. Manga compensates for that, by providing just a ton of shit to read. I love that about it. Granted, the bodies of many Japanese cartoonists are broken to pieces on the manga machine, but ... oh, the books you produce are so wonderful to consume. MOAR PLEASE.

And now I am a very happy comic book consumer. I am thrilled every time a book by a creator I like comes out, and I rush out to buy it. I check out dozens of graphic novels from the library a month. I read everything that seems remotely interesting, buying work that I enjoy the most. I don't spend a ton, due to not making a lot of money, but books are what I buy first, before anything else, when I have extra money to spend.

So that is how I became A Comic Book Consumer. How did you become one?

Jan. 28th, 2011


Fanart a Week: Winry - Fullmetal Alchemist (and a rant about character)

Trucking on through the Fullmetal Alchemist characters... XD If people get really sick of these, I guess I could switch to a different series, but I do like drawing these folks a lot.

WINRY! Adorable mechanic of Ed and Al, brave and smart and a great "normal" character in a manga primarily concerned with superpowered individuals.

Okay, and this brings me to a point: I like Winry a lot. I think Arakawa does great things with her character. She's sweet and tough and Al and Ed treat her with respect, and more importantly Arakawa treats her with respect. There is a character trope typical of stories that revolve around superpowered characters, and that trope is that those characters in the story who are not superpowerer are lesser beings. They exist in the story only to be kidnapped, or killed, or to act as emotional fodder for whatever SuperDuperCharacter is doing, and it drives me freaking crazy, because to me it reveals a storytelling distain for ordinary humans.

I feel like if you are going to write a story about superpowered beings (be they superheroes, wizards or alchemists), you have to make the non-superpowered characters worth fighting for. Maybe they aren't as powerful as the superpowered characters, but they have to be worth those characters' time, because otherwise what is the point of the story? Why are these superheroes or wizards or alchemists fighting for the lives of these ordinary men and women if they're so weak and helpless that they come across as completely useless? They have to be able to stand on their own two feet as (non-superpowered, but still strong) characters.

Winry is the great emotional centre of Fullmetal Alchemist. She's "ordinary," but she's never useless, although sometimes she feels so in the face of Al and Ed's power. There's a great scene in volume 12 where Winry faces down the man who killed her parents, only to fail to kill him and then is saved by (superpowered) Ed. He dashes off after the baddie, and Winry sits in the street staring after him, and says: "Why is there never anything for me to do but wait?"

AHHHH. AWESOME WRITING. FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST HAS IT. It's such a sympathetic moment, the lament of the ordinary character in a story with superpowered ones. She knows she will never be as strong as Roy or Ed or Izumi, but she manages to be awesome just the same. Just sometimes it's hard to see it, when you're surrounded by people so much more powerful than you are.

Jan. 23rd, 2011


Fanart of the Week

Continuing with the Fullmetal Alchemist characters ...

Lin! (or Ling, whichever.) Aw, I love Lin. I really enjoy a character who introduces themselves as a happy go lucky fool, lulls you into a sense of security ("oh, this guy's just comic relief"), and then reveals he's a smartypants badass underneath. Actually, I've noticed that about FMA. Everyone is a badass. Even tiny little girls and their tiny pet pandas. WTF. So anyway, I like Lin a lot, and then he gets (spoiler) and turns super sexy and for some reason they don't make his age clear in the manga (or if they did I missed it), so I was assuming he was at least in his 20s, but then I watched the anime and NOPE, he's FIFTEEN.

... so I feel dirty. XD

If you didn't read it already, volume 24 of FMA came out last Wednesday, and I swallowed it whole in one sitting. It was pretty magnificent; the whole thing was three fight scenes, and the fact that Arakawa managed to spend 200 pages on three fight scenes without making them boring or repetitive ... well, damn. I would like to be like her when I grow up.

Jan. 14th, 2011


Fanart A Week: Back from break, honest!

Let's try and get back on track with this 'Drawing a Fanart a Week' thing. The entire point of it was to force me to draw characters I wouldn't normally draw, and also to observe other artist's styles and see why their art works so well, and I think that's something worth continuing. So, Christmas Break over, back to work! Here you go:

IZUMI! Badass lady alchemist/housewife/teacher of our heroes Ed and Al from Fullmetal Alchemist! Over break I got my paws on a bunch of volumes of the manga, and fell madly in love with it. It reminds me a lot of Avater: The Last Airbender in that while it's very much aimed at young boys, it's full of great female characters, and some of the best illustrated fight scenes I've ever seen in a manga. I love it a lot. I don't think there's a single character in it that I don't like, which is pretty amazing. And it's written and drawn by a lady! I was really excited when I found that out. I'm always looking for new lady cartoonists to look up to, and when I find a particularly badass one, well, that's nifty keen.

I'd like to do more FMA fanart, so maybe I'll just continue on with these characters. They're so well designed, it'd be a shame not to do more fanart of them.

Jan. 8th, 2011


Superhero Girl website

Hey guys, I did some mangling of blogger and came up with a design for the Superhero Girl site that I feel is a little more comic browsing friendly. Mind taking a look? Unfortunately all the older comics aren't full size the way the current one is, mostly because I'd have to go back and edit those posts by hand to fix them, and I kinda don't wanna do that. Maybe if I get ambitious I will, but right now ... ehhh, it's Saturday morning.

Anyway, if you have any suggestions, give a shout and I'll try and implement them. This design seems pretty decent, so I'm happy about it.

Jan. 6th, 2011


Two Thousand and Ten

I had guests for New Year's (one of these guests I've spent the past eight years or so of New Years with, so it's a bit of a tradition), but now they're packed off home to Toronto, and I can finally write up a quick 2010 report, because everyone's doing it.

I had a really amazing year. I spent the first 8 months working on my very own graphic novel and actually not starving (thanks, First Second, and also the Nova Scotia Tourism and Culture people for that awesome grant!), which is kind of a dream come true. It's weird when you land in your dream job: it's harder than you ever expect it to be (so many long hours, so much backbreaking labour, so many days where if I have to ink another pencil line I will scream), but also so much more wonderful. I made a comic! I mean, I've been making comics for over ten years (OVER TEN YEARS WTF), but it was the first time where I was getting paid a living wage to make my own. It was pretty wow.

It was also kind of a crazy year in that things I never thought would happen to me, uh, kinda did. Like getting a short story published by Marvel. I mean, look, I know how I draw and write, and it's not typical Marvel stuff, and it was really a great experience being allowed into that very different world to play around. It was really fun, and I loved all the responses I got to my work.

People also really loved my Wolverine story, and it got passed around the internet and it turned into this whole thing I really wasn't expecting, and I'm still kind of blown away by it all. I've never had something go viral like that, and it was really amazing. I feel like I fell accidentally into the best of both worlds: I got a story passed around a million times online (but didn't make any money from that), and I got a story published by Marvel. So I got paid for my work and I got internet popular, which is something that doesn't happen very often.

And people seem to be enjoying my little Superhero Girl comic strip as well. I really appreciate all the comments people have been leaving, and it's great to get paid a little bit of money for that comic. Makes me feel that I can buy comics without worrying too much about my budget.

I guess I really found everyone's responses to my work this year kind of incredible. I have a hard time with my artwork. I feel like I was bad at drawing for so long that it became my default stance. Faith Erin Hicks = bad at the drawing part, but maybe okay at other things and when combined with writing her comics are probably okay to read for free online or something. AWFUL. But this year I feel like I got a lot of praise and people who I never expected to even talk to me told me they enjoyed my work, and it made me go all wibbly and embarrassed and it was so cool, you guys. It was a special year.

I also moved in with my boyfriend, and so far we have managed not to starve (I've discovered I kind of like cooking for him) and the scrunched up faces he makes when I put my cold feet on him at night are hilarious. I am a terrible girlfriend and it's been really great so far. Personal and professional success this year? I know, wtf. I'm unrecognizable.

So here's to a great 2011! It's always looking busy and awesome and terrifying and great. I'm working hard on my next script for First Second, and I think it's going to be a blast to draw.

I'm also going to be drawing a comic with J.Torres in the spring, which I'm really looking forward to. Everyone I've spoken to about J. has told me how awesome he is, so he'd better live up to the hype. ;) So yeah, I'll be drawing at least two books at once for most of 2011, which is just nuttiness. AND there'll be a big online thing I'll be doing soon as well, but I can't announce that just yet.

I think 2011's going to be pretty cool.

(Oh yeah, I also bought a very cool tablet laptop! See how pretty:

Yes so pretty! It's my very first brand new computer!)

Dec. 20th, 2010


Merry Christmas + other stuff

Merry Christmas everyone! Or Merry Early Christmas or something. I'm off to visit my boyfriend's folks in the wilds of Nova Scotia and do Christmassy things with them, and then I'm off to Ontario to visit my family, so my internets will be sporadic for a while. Enjoy the little Superhero Girl Christmas card!

Over Christmas break, Superhero Girl is set to update (love that you can do that) on its regular Tuesday/Friday schedule, so be sure to check it out on those days. Also, I semi-fixed the Demonology 101 issues. I'm not really inclined to html together those old episodes (sooooo time consuming), so I provided links to pdfs of the episodes which people can download and read if they wish. Oh god, looking at those pages was so painful... old art is ooooold and terrible. But I improved, so that's good. Still, it's like someone seeing pictures of the awful, unstylish outfits you wore in high school ... still, enough people asked that the episodes remain online that I felt I should keep them there.

Hm, anything else? I think that's it. Enjoy the Holidays everyone!

Dec. 5th, 2010


Fanart a Week: Saturn Apartments

This fanart a week thing's being going pretty well, although I always have a hard time drawing something decent for a book/series I really like. Thus this meagre drawing for Saturn Apartments, a fantastic character-based science fiction series by Hiasae Iwaoka. Last week I was invited to do some guest commentating on the comic blog Robot 6, and chose to talk about this series, so go here for some general talkings about it.

Here's Mitsu, a window-washer, and Sachi, another menial labourer, both of whom live with the rest of humanity in giant ring shaped space stations encircling an abandoned Earth. Saturn Apartments is about their (somewhat ordinary but remarkably touching) lives and the lives of those around them. It is genius work, the kind of comics I really want to make myself.

When I was a teenager I was really into science fiction. It was pretty much all I read, but I've basically all but stopped reading it now, the odd post-apocalyptic YA book notwithstanding, mostly because science fiction is kind of a terrible genre if you want to read about great characters. Great worldbuilding, great ideas, astonishing visions of the future, scifi has that in spades, but it always seems to fall down when it comes to character. It's really frustrating. I feel like there should be both, great characters and great science fiction stories, that the two shouldn't be mutually exclusive, but I've had a hard time finding anything like that that isn't, well, manga. If anyone wants to recommend anything, by all means, do so. I mean, I am a geek and I like reading the geeky side of fiction, but sometimes it feels that scifi writers get so swept up in their awesome worldbuilding and concepts, they completely forget about the characters. And at this stage in my reading, I'd rather read something with good characters.

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